Background and Intro

Welcome to the Human Flourishing Project, I’m your host, Alex Epstein. This is week 10, the 10th episode. Which is quite exciting, because I have been doing one episode a week since I started recording August 1, 2018 (on my birthday). And it was a great birthday present because I had a year and a half of trying to develop this thing into some kind of form so it is great to be doing it every week and it is great to be get a lot of feedback. I have not promoted it a whole lot yet, but it is still great to get emails from people and messages from people on how much it is benefiting them. So what I wanted to do, now that we are in the 10th episode, is I wanted to get some feedback from you. So, today is going to be a really short episode (I may have said this in the past, but I guarantee today will be the shortest episode). What I want to do today, is 2 things, one is ask you a set of questions that you can then email me answers to or post them on the facebook about the show so that I can get your input, and then I want to share with you some of my reflections on how my life as been helped by doing the show. And in particular, things that I have learned or developed in the last 10 weeks that I think may be useful to you as well. So I’m going to start out with the questions and then I will share some ideas about what I’ve been learning from doing the show myself and then I’ll probably repeat the questions and wrap up. Please at the end of this, I have not charged anything yet, but if you find it valuable I just really wish you could answer the questions. You can email me at alex@alexepstein.com or you can post in the comments on the facebook page. So my four questions are as follows.

Feedback from the Audience- 4 Questions:

What have been your three favorite episodes and why? What topics would you like me to cover more? If you could get more access to me for coaching or q&a, what would you most want help with? And with this one, in terms of coaching and q&a, I’m getting some really good individual questions where people seem like they want more feedback, and I’m just really interested in, are there way you want this help- no guarantees on my part- I definitely want to do it in a way that is going to help me create content for a lot of people, so I do not want to get too into individualized coaching or that sort of thing, but it could be possible that we could have groups, or some sort of q&a sessions where I could give semi- customized guidance at least, and where that could be really valuable. So open ended if you could get more access to me for coaching and q&a, what would you most want help with and the last one is just completely open ended. Anything else I should show to make the show more useful to you? So we are very early in this process. There is just a lot of ways that I could go, I lot of things I am interested in. Everything I have talked about so far I find interesting and I have some of my own thoughts on where I want to focus things in the future, but those of you that have listened, in particular those of you who have listened to several of the episodes, or all of them, and I know some of you have listened to all of the them, it would just be great to get your feedback. Dan Sullivan, I mention him pretty often, and I was having a conversation with him yesterday. He is the founder of Strategic Coach, and he just made a comment to me that his creative process he thinks of as 50% him and 50% the market, and there is all sorts of insights you get and all sorts of amplifications to your original vision for something that you get once you try to make something useful for people and you learn what works well that you didn’t even realize would work and then what doesn’t work as well that you thought would work so I really really appreciate any of your feedback.

My Reflections and What I Have Learned Since Starting the Show:

Ok, so just some quick thoughts, and these are going to be quick, things that I have learned while doing the first 9 episodes. This will be particularly useful if you have listened to the episodes I’m going to reference. If you haven’t, maybe it still we be, but no guarantees.

So one is, and this is under the topic of knowledge acquisitions systems which is one of the huge topics maybe the biggest topic that this show is about- how do we acquire real knowledge amidst the sea of non-knowledge that we are exposed to when we are trying to get what we need to flourish. One thing, as I have been thinking about different areas, like nutrition, and psychology, and reflecting on my own experiences, one thing I thought about is that validating experts is even more important than I thought- by which I mean, there are a lot of subtle things that I realize that I do when I am processing people who claim to be experts and I have talked about some of them on the show and I will talk about more of them in the future, but I have noticed that the better that I can get at finding out if a person is legit and really critically evaluating just everything I can about them, how they come across, do they them authentic, how do they answer criticism, how do they characterize their opponents. The more I can be critical in the good sense at evaluating experts the faster I can get to the very few people who are way better than the others, and most fields there are just a few people who are way way better than the others and this is true even within schools of thought. So within any given approach to nutrition, there might be one school of thought that is generally more right, probably that is true, but even within those there are going to be some people who really get it and have thought it through and certain people who are much more copycats. And I am not going to go into too many details of this, but I just wanted to share that as I am thinking about getting real knowledge there is such a important part of that is how to vet experts and if you want to know more about this or any of the other topics I raised just highlight that to me on facebook or via email and that will reinforce my desire to cover it more. Alright another one, and this also goes under knowledge acquisition, is that developing self testing skills is more important than I thought. I’ve noticed as I have felt compelled to cover certain topics, particularly in the last couple of weeks I have talked about rejuvenation and relaxed productivity, a lot of what I draw upon is testing things on myself. And this is the type of thing that is often dismissed as anecdotal and I think there are good reasons for that, but I do believe that there are ways to test things on ourselves and ways to think about the results where we can come close to running controlled experiments and to the extent we can do that the differences we notice can have meaning and we can learn things from them. So, if you look back on just the last several episodes I talk a lot about my own experiences, but I think there are certain things that I am doing where there is an objectivity to that where I’m understanding certain cause and effect by looking at my experiences and then sometimes other’s experiences, but I am really obsessed with how can I understand the mechanisms here, how can I understand how things fit together and there are reasons why looking in depth at individual cases can sometimes get us more insight into how things work than just doing very broad studies. Very broad studies have certain advantages, but it can be hard to get a nuanced understanding of things from very big studies and for example things that I have realized in communication and persuasion those have been overwhelming been from testing them myself and then really trying to work out systematically how does the cause and effect work, versus say looking at some comprehensive study of all communication because it is all so hard to get at the complexity of life with some of these big studies, so self testing is an area where I want to develop my thinking more and I want to help you develop your abilities more. Going to the subject of episode three where I talked about how to evaluate and appreciate our daily progress, how to change how we evaluate progress and I talked about the positive focus tool that I learned again, from Don Sullivan, so listen to that if you want to know the details of that, but one thing as I have been reflecting on that, with the daily positive focus that I do, it is very valuable to add at least one long term positive focus, so with positive everyday you record at least 5 different victories that you have and I found that sometimes those victories that I am doing are just specific to today which was great, but then I was noticing in certain areas of life I was still, in what Dan Sullivan, calls the gap too much. The gap is where I am evaluating myself not by how much progress I am making but by how distant I am from the ideal state and for various reasons that is a losing formula and I noticed there are certain longer term things that it is good to do the positive focus to track my growth in even if they are not obvious in a given day. So for example, one of them might be how I manage my team at work. This is not something where I think I am a master yet, but I am making progress and if I make a point to mark that progress everyday and appreciate it then I’m going to enjoy the process of improving long term, whereas if I do not do that I might go back into the gap and feel like oh I am still not very good as I need to be, and that is not a formula that is going to help me. It is going to make me enjoy life less and make me less motivated to improve in the future.

To take now another topic, which is rejuvenation, and that was I think week 7, I talked in that session about how it is important to refine our rejuvenation routines, really think about and machine something to precision, really getting that routine right and what I thought, even for me, I thought that I had done that myself, but that is just the gift that keeps on giving, think about how do I refine these rejuvenation routines, in particular for minimum friction and maximum results, so for example, I have this one wheel routine, onewheel.com, not sponsored unfortunately, still yet, but I ride my one wheel all the time and one thing that I have noticed is that at the end of my one wheel ride or in the middle of it, one thing that is really cool to do is to pick up my one wheel and I have the one wheel XR which is the biggest one with the big battery, it is about 30 pounds, and I carry that and I walk it down the stairs and I walk it up the stairs, and that is a decent amount of exercise, that it gets my heart up just a little bit, it gets me a little bit of exercise, and I find that is a really nice supplement to the one wheel experience which is just incredible in that I am floating through the world, it feels amazing but it is very low exertion, it is much easier to do than say walking, so I find that if I can add a little bit of exercise to the one wheel, that just makes that routine that much more effective in getting me fully rejuvenating. Another one that is more significant for me is going into the ocean. I am obsessed with the ocean, which I am sure that I have mentioned, and what I was noticing was that when I was evaluating my results from the ocean, even when I went in for 5 minutes or even 3 minutes it was incredible how much of an immediate rejuvenation I would get from it, but I noticed sometimes even though I am close to the ocean I wasn’t doing it and it was because there is a bunch of friction involved with getting on my bathing suit and in particular having a wet bathing suit and then it can be annoying for the bathing suit to dry and do I want to change, This might seem like you are just being a little wimp, just get over it, but it is this thing where we want to optimize it as much as possible, so then I started wearing a bathing suit throughout the work day, just a dry one and having a few bathing suits so that when I am doing the first thing I do is try off quickly and then put on a dry bathing suit so that I can repeat in the future and one thing this lead to was that I didn’t feel the need to shower as much throughout the day. It is ok I’m showering enough in general, I just felt that showering would actually take a bunch of time and then I would stay in the shower longer than I would expect to and that would make the whole thing time consuming so now I can do it where it is 10 minutes in and out- going from dry to wet to dry, but having that amazing feeling in there. If that sounds like overkill you are probably wrong, because getting it where these things work so well for you is so important. And this relates to the next topic which is relaxed productivity.

I did two sessions on that and that really made me think about the concept and actually the book, called Deep Work, by a guy named Cal Newport, who I think is a guy who is really thoughtful and insightful about all kinds of issues regarding human flourishing, but certainly this issue of deep work. And I realized I only read a little bit of his book before, so I read the whole thing, this past weekend and I highly recommend the whole book is valuable, so if you like relaxed productivity he has a slightly different take on it than I do, he is not so much focused on the relaxed part, I think it is possible to be very relaxed when doing deep work but he has so much depth in there, no pun intended, and highly recommended, but what I noticed particularly after reading that and thinking about it is that I was undervaluing how important it is to batch certain types of work that are not deep work and that I do not really enjoy, to put those together as much as possible so that I can chunk out the deep work. For example, there is a lot of email correspondence that I need to do at least once a week. Some of it sales related, some of it related of other things, but I find that most of it can all be done on the same day, so putting it all on one day I found very very helpful and that allowed me to chunk out more deep work this week and that made me able to get a lot further on a book project that I am working on that hopefully I will be able to announce in the next week or two. So just optimizing for deep work isn’t something I thought about enough, but once I started doing it, I remember this is so enjoyable. And one other note on deep work, is that in my experience, it is one of these subtle things, it is kind of like the rejuvenation thing, you want to get the exact worked out routine worked out where you can just go deep, but where you do not want to rely on that perfect set of conditions to be willing to do it. So, for example, if I say I have a book project, the idea is I free up 3 hours completely undistracted, phone is off, away from me, etc, and then certain things come up, I still want to be on the premise of if I can get 50 minutes mostly unbroken I am going to do that. This kind of thing often happens where you want to identify the best conditions for success and try to engineer those. But not make those conditions into a negative by saying well I’m only going to do this kind of work if everything is perfectly set up, that is a negative form of procrastination. In general optimizing relaxed productivity for deep work. One other thing and in particular because this isn’t really in the book Deep Work, if you listen to episode 7, I would just emphasize the rejuvenation stuff I find so so helpful for doing the kind of work that I like. I realize now I am just a complete junkie for having just a totally clear energized state of mind and when I don’t have that, I do not procrastinate with that, but if I need to take a nap, I will take a nap, if I need to go to the ocean I will go to the ocean, but I just have this feeling of, I want my mind to be totally clear and energized before I am going in. Now if that turns into procrastination, don’t do it, but I think the more you can become a junkie for that, and the more you have a feel for that, and a taste for that, what you will be able to do you will have so many blocks throughout the week where you are just getting such good thinking done. And so much work done. And in almost all of our careers that is really what we need to make happen at some point. We need to be at our best with the most clarity and the most energy, with the most focus, and then just kick butt, versus just being scattered and doing a million different things. And then the last thing is with relaxed productivity, I talked about calendar comprehensiveness. Just making sure we are thinking about what we want to do to the point where we know when we are going to do everything we really want to do. The more I have thought about that, the more I realized you should always do this on a weekly basis, but it is so much better if there is a clear long term focus. And this is definitely an area where I have struggled and as I have been thinking about calendar comprehensiveness I’ve thought oh wow, the clearer I’m getting on my focus the more I can confidently and happily say this is what I want to do in the next week and this is what I don’t. And this is what I want to do in the next month, and this is what I don’t. And this is what I want to do in the next year and this is what I don’t. And the more that is a long term focus, the more things can be eliminated with confidence versus the more the focus is just on the day or the week, the more things we don’t want to do the more we will feel like we want to do them because we haven’t really made those hard long term decisions. So, what do I really want to get done in the next year, the more I think about that, the more I just become focused on one or two or three things. Then I think that oh wow those other things are just crowding this out, and not really helping me. So, those are some of the ways so far I’ve been thinking about these issues, getting your feedback. Really trying to apply all these ideas to my life more. Some ways in which those have helped me, so hopefully that is valuable for you.

Ok, just to wrap up. The questions again, send to alex@alexepstein.com or post on facebook. What are your three favorite episodes and why. What episodes would you like me to cover. If you could get more access to me for coaching or q&a what would you most want help with. And anything else you think I should know to make the show more useful to you. Alright thank you so much for listening, for listening in general, to listening to this episode in particular. Next week, I am planning to do a q&a where I answer a whole bunch of questions so feel free to ask me questions to my email or on facebook. I’ve already put a couple of posts up about that so I would welcome those questions, I will do my best to answer as many as possible and I will speak to everyone then. Until next week I am Alex Epstein and this has been the Human Flourishing Project.